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How the magic was created on set

“Shot on a tight budget and with abundant use of green screen, the world Villeneuve puts onscreen nonetheless feels whole and, in the sci-fi context, credible.” – Boyd van Hoeij, Variety


In 2005, Robert Lepage optioned the rights to Martin Villeneuve’s Mars et Avril graphic novels (volumes 1 and 2) through his Quebec city-based motion picture company, Films Ex æquo (who had already produced The Far Side of the Moon in 2003), with the intent of adapting them into a science fiction feature film. While the author of the books was to write the script, Lepage was attached to the project as actor and producer. A year later, Lepage shut down Films Ex æquo, deciding at the time that he would not direct any more films in Canada. Nevertheless, he strongly encouraged Mars et Avril’s writer to take the director’s chair. Martin Villeneuve took over the project, while Lepage remained involved as actor and creative producer.

In 2007, Villeneuve contacted the famous Belgian comic book artist François Schuiten (Les Cités Obscures), who accepted to work on the film as production designer. Schuiten had already worked on such films as Toto le Héros, The Golden Compass and Mr. Nobody. The young filmmaker was also able to convince Guy Laliberté, founder of Cirque du Soleil, to finance the creation of the imaginary musical instruments to be used by the actors on set. In 2008, SODEC, Telefilm Canada, The Harold Greenberg Fund and Alliance Vivafilm decided to finance the production. Due to the film’s significant amount of visual effects, an extensive year of pre-production was necessary. Also, in order to work around Robert Lepage’s extremely tight schedule, principal photography took place in Montreal in two segments; the first was in September 2008, and the second was in April 2009. Since Lepage only had a few days available for filming, Villeneuve turned his character into a hologram and had another actor wearing a green hood stand in for his scenes during principal photography. The film was almost entirely shot on green screen, in 25 days, using the RED digital camera.

Director Martin Villeneuve on the set of his sci-fi film "Mars et Avril" - Photo by Yanick MacDonald -Courtesy of Mars Et Avril inc.© 2008

Lead actors Jacques Languirand and Caroline Dhavernas during principal photography of the film "Mars et Avril" -Photo by Yanick MacDonald - Courtesy of Mars et Avril inc. © 2009

Most of the actors who appeared in the graphic novels reprised their roles in the film, with the exception of Marie-Josée Croze (who portrayed the lead female character in the books), due to a schedule conflict. Caroline Dhavernas (Passchendaele, Wonderfalls) was then hired to play the part of AVRIL, opposite Jacques Languirand (JACOB OBUS), Robert Lepage (EUGÈNE SPAAK) and Paul Ahmarani (ARTHUR SPAAK). From the original cast of the books, Stéphane Demers also reprised the role of BERNARD BREL.

By the end of 2009, the editing of a first cut was assembled. In 2010, Martin Villeneuve searched for new investments in order to complete the 550 VFX shots involved in the film. In early 2011, Anne-Marie Gélinas and Benoît Beaulieu joined Villeneuve as producers. Telefilm Canada and Alliance Vivafilm both accepted to raise their initial investment, and so did Robert Lepage and Lynda Beaulieu though their new Quebec city-based motion picture company, Les Productions du 8e Art. At this point, Pierre Even (C.R.A.Z.Y.) and Marie-Claude Poulin from Item 7 also joined the team as executive producers.

TIn March 2011, a re-shoot took place at Lepage’s request. An additional scene involving Languirand and Dhavernas was shot, and the final cut of the film was completed during the summer of the same year. Montreal-based post-production company Vision Globale (under the supervision of former ILM Senior Compositor Carlos Monzon) then started the visual effects and sound design. Also, Oscar-nominated Benoît Charest (The Triplets of Belleville) was tasked with scoring the music.

The official trailer was released in Quebec theaters and on Alliance Vivafilm’s YouTube channel on December 21, 2011. The official poster, designed by François Schuiten, was revealed online on March 11, 2012, once the film was entirely completed. The World premiere took place on July 2, 2012, at the 47th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Czech Republic (the film was selected in the section “Another View” for its unique artistic approach in both form and content). The movie was well received by the public and the reviews were positive. The first in a series of production videos unveiling the film’s creation has been released online on August 16, 2012, along with the official website created by the Sid Lee agency. A 22-minute “Making Of” was aired on ARTV in October 2012 in order to promote the release of the film, and is now available in French and with English subtitles on YouTube. Filmmaker Martin Villeneuve spoke at TED2013, explaining in details how he made an “impossible film”. He was the first ever speaker from Québec invited on this most prestigious stage, following in the footsteps of famed directors James Cameron and J.J. Abrams who spoke in the years before.

Full length “MAKING OF” (English subtitled)


“The story of Mars et Avril is set in a utopian future. I don’t think we’ve ever seen a science fiction film like this one. It’s a genre that’s not so common in Quebec! And that’s precisely what interests me, but for a first feature, let’s just say it might have been a little too ambitious…” – Martin Villeneuve, scriptwriter, director and producer
“The thing that appealed to me the most is that it’s the first time in Quebec that a work tries to project ourselves into the future. We have a tendency in Quebec – and I include myself in this – to describe ourselves using the past. We’re always nostalgic. And this guy has the courage to say, ‘Yeah, but what happens 50 years from now?’ He’s made a very beautiful, poetic science fiction film about Montreal and I find that very courageous and surprising.” – Robert Lepage, actor (Eugène Spaak) and artistic consultant
“It’s a unique thing he’s doing… and he’s the only one holding all the keys.” – Robert Lepage, actor (Eugène Spaak) and artistic consultant
“What I recall the most from this overwhelming experience is the human aspect of it all, the process of making a collective piece of art. A story is not only told; it’s also created. When you start to think otherwise, the difference is visible on the screen. For a project like this one, we couldn’t just think about the finished product – we had to build it piece by piece, collaborate. Since the adventure is long, it has to be beautiful and giving.” – Martin Villeneuve, scriptwriter, director and producer